When you envisioned having a new baby in your home, it’s unlikely that your dreams of these early days looked anything like new parenting in 2020. There has been a huge amount of shake up in what we’ve considered “normal” in this country in the past few months, and care for folks in the childbearing year has not been a sector immune from having a light shone on its strengths and flaws.
For better or for worse (...worse), the fourth trimester in the U.S. can be incredibly isolating, even under more routine circumstances. In-home care is not common or built in to obstetrics and that kind of support is often viewed as a luxury, especially through the past few months with economic uncertainties abounding. Sadly, isolation has actually become necessary in the days of lockdown and restricted travel, with some extended families not being able to visit, doulas not all being able or willing to do in-home appointments, and the risks of even friends and neighbors stopping in has been too high for many folks.
The risk of entering busy hospitals and care centers due to the presence of patients, providers, and all of the essential staff in medical facilities has required the medical field and complementary care to adapt. Already within the standard hospital-based obstetrical model, infants see their new primary care providers several times in the first few weeks of their lives. The person who just gave birth typically only sees their care provider once in the first six weeks and not always by the same provider who cared for them in pregnancy or who was present for their birth. We abide by these procedures despite the fact that most complications and mortality related to birth complications actually occur in the first two weeks after birth.
The medical field has had to adapt quickly and constantly, which has often meant a switch to virtual care. In some ways, excitingly, this might have led to some folks getting to check in with a care provider more often, even if not face-to-face. In some situations, however, the road to virtual checkups has been bumpy and has left some recovering parents having their care pushed back for days or weeks, especially in those earlier weeks of lockdown.
Homebirth and birth center based midwives typically see their clients after 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days, and 14 days postpartum -- the first several in their homes and then in the midwife’s office. During Covid-19, some out of hospital practices have also had to adapt to telehealth appointments unless there was a need for in-person or hands-on care. This is partly due to midwives also being made to adapt on the spot to changes in policy and the general understanding of the way the virus spreads, as well as because they, too, were affected by shortages in personal protective equipment.
We want you to know that you’re not alone in navigating these new spaces -- the good and the rough. As part of the #LetsGetReal campaign here at Natural Resources, we are curious about how your care is going through postpartum in the time of Coronavirus so we can learn as a community and better support one another*.
What are the highs and lows of telemedicine? Have you seen your lactation consultant virtually? Did your doula switch to contactless support and how did you agree to the new terms? How are your midwives adapting to safely caring for you all at home? What have you learned about how to educate and advocate for yourself and your family in these first few weeks with baby during Covid? What advice did you get from others birthing in this time around navigating the adapting healthcare system? What unique options have been presented to you by providers to help you rest, heal, cope, and stay attuned to your needs in the fourth trimester as everyone adapts to these unprecedented circumstances?
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
You can contribute to the conversation by posting with the hashtags: #letsgetrealpostpartum, and tagging us @naturalresourcessf on your social media pages. If you feel compelled to share some longer thoughts with us, you can enter your story into this easy form to potentially be featured in our blog or newsletter. We want to know what got you through, what more did you wish you knew, how did your community come through for you, how did you triumph, what has caused you to laugh and learn about yourself? Get real with us.
Each week we’ll be sharing some resources and tips from our educators and staff for how best to prepare for these emotional moments. It takes a village. You’re not alone.
*It is worth noting that even though we are looking for radical openness in these stories, we are not intentionally seeking stories of when everything goes wrong. That narrative is all too common in our culture already and breeds far too much fear and disempowerment.
Written by: Em Flynn
Photo: Didi Von Bach